On Tuesday night in their first game together in two weeks, the Chicago Blackhawks looked like a team that was still on vacation.
Despite outshooting the New York Islanders 22-9 in the first period, the Hawks failed to pull away from a struggling team that was playing without one of their key defenseman, Andy Sutton, who was traded to Ottawa a couple hours before the game. While some credit was earned by the Islanders, the loss was cleary earned by the two goalies from Chicago.
Amid swirling trade rumors, coach Joel Quenneville started Antti Niemi for a fifth straight game. After the team’s practices at the end of the break, Quenneville stated that Niemi had his chance to win the starting job in net and had taken control of the situation with his play; various media outlets in Chicago, however, reported that Huet’s role in a potential trade was keeping him on the bench.
Niemi’s play on Tuesday couldn’t keep Huet on the bench for three more periods.
Niemi played just over 22 minutes, allowing three goals on just 12 shots. After the third goal was allowed, Quenneville pulled the plug and replaced him with Huet. In perhaps his best shot at staying with the Hawks, much less regaining his status as the team’s top goalie, Huet allowed two awful, soft goals despite only facing 11 shots. In all, the Blackhawks tandem of goalies allowed five goals on 23 shots, which adds up to a save percentage of not good.
The offense that looked crisp in the first period was miserable in the final two frames. Marian Hossa appears to have left his legs and hand-eye coordination in Vancouver on a number of occasions. Patrick Kane was credited with an assist on Brian Campbell’s goal in the first, and scored the second goal for the Hawks, but that was pretty much when the offense disappeared.
It wasn’t until Dustin Byfuglien scored with less than five minutes left in regulation, and the Hawks trailing 5-2, that the Hawks would score again. Kane was credited with another assist on the third goal, giving him a three-point night. Jonathan Toews also had two assists for the Blackhawks on the night.